After back to back September collapses in which the bullpen played a big part, the Mets took this offseason to reshape their pitching staff.Â Essentially what they did is purge the bullpen and as get rid of some aged arms, like Pedro Martinez who simply couldnâ€™t give the team more than six innings per start anymore, so the bullpen wouldnâ€™t need to be relied on quite as heavily.Â However those arenâ€™t the moves which captured the headlines.
For that you only need to Omar Minayaâ€™s two big acquisitions, free agent closer Francisco â€śK-Rodâ€ť Rodriguez and former Mariners closer JJ Putz, whoâ€™ll serve as a set up man for the K-Rod and the Mets. This will give the team the automatic eighth inning - ninth inning punch that theyâ€™ve lacked for a long time.Â
Couple that with an offense which scored 799 runs last season (tied with the Phillies for second in the NL) and this seasonâ€™s Mets should be a formidable team.Â It might well be the best one theyâ€™ve fielded since 2000.
2008 Regular Season Record: 89-73
Citi Field is due to open at the beginning of the 2009 season
Rank: 2nd in the NL East - 3.0 games back.
Home Park: Citi Field
In a New York State of mind:
IF - Alex Cora (Free Agent from Red Sox)
OF - Cory Sullivan (Free Agent from Rockies)
OF - Jeremy Reed (Trade from Mariners)
LHP - Casey Fossum* (Free Agent from Tigers)
RHP - Francisco Rodriguez (Free Agent from Angels)
RHP - JJ Putz (Trade from Mariners)
RHP - Sean Green (Trade from Mariners)
RHP - Darren Oâ€™Day (Rule V selection from Angels)
RHP - Tim Redding (Free Agent from Nationals)
RHP - Freddy Garcia* (Free Agent from Tigers)
RHP - Connor Robertson (Trade with Diamondbacks)
RHP - Livan Hernandez* (Free Agent from Rockies)
OF - Trot Nixon (Free Agent signed with Brewers)
OF - Endy Chavez (Trade to Mariners)
LHP - Scott Schoeneweis (Trade to Diamondbacks)
RHP - Aaron Heilman (Trade to Mariners)
RHP - Duaner Sanchez (Released, signed with Padres)
RHP - Joe Smith (Trade to Indians)
RHP - Claudio Vargas (Free Agent signed with Dodgers)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths: Offense, starting pitching, set up man and closer
Wright, Reyes and Beltran make up the heart of the Mets offense and all of them are in their prime and should help the team score plenty of runs, but the rest of the offense isnâ€™t quite as elite.Â Itâ€™s hard to know what to expect from Carlos Delgado, who had a renaissance season last year, but at age 36 expecting a repeat of last yearâ€™s 38 home run season probably isnâ€™t realistic.
However, the Mets will have several players who are likely to outperform last seasonâ€™s numbers, including the young Daniel Murphy, a healthy Ryan Church and even the disappointing Luis Castillo who came to camp in excellent shape and with the knowledge that his job is on the line.
The starting rotation looks to be solid, if not spectacular, beyond Johan Santana, but has a lot of upside and itâ€™s likely that both Mike Pelfrey and John Maine will take a step forward and put up solid numbers if they can avoid the injury bug.
Then of course are Putz and K-Rod who should nail down games from the beginning of the season on.Â Even better for the Mets is the insurance provided by having two experienced closers in the pen just in case an injury sidelines one of them.
Weaknesses: Declining skills of aging players, inexperience among the middle relievers
The age part of this equation is Carlos Delgado, the 36 year old who last year hit .271 with 38 home runs.Â While itâ€™s possible he can repeat those numbers, it seems unlikely with age and increased injury risk looming.
Also a part of this concern is Luis Castillo who last season was so dreadful that the Mets desperately tried to trade him this offseason without any takers.Â Castillo could bounce back, but if he tanks again, he could drag this team down.
As to the youth, itâ€™s not left fielder Daniel Murphy who could be a concern, but the middle relievers which includes righties Sean Green, Brian Stokes and Darren Oâ€™Day, none of whom have a lot of big game experience.Â While they are likely to do fine, none have really faced the pressure cooker of New York or the bats of the Phillies.Â Â Theyâ€™ll have to prove themselves in battle.
SS - Jose Reyes
LF - Daniel Murphy
CF - Carlos Beltran
3B - David Wright
1B - Carlos Delgado
RF - Ryan Church
2B - Luis Castillo
C - Brian Schneider
SP1 â€“ Johan Santana
SP2 â€“ Mike Pelfrey
SP3 â€“ Oliver Perez
SP4 â€“ John Maine
SP5 â€“ Freddy Garcia/Tim Redding/Jonathan Niese/Livan Hernandez
CL â€“ Francisco Rodriguez
One question that need answering:
Can the Mets get over that September hump and deal with the pressure of a pennant race?Â Certainly when it comes to closing games the Mets should be fine; the only pressure here is psychological.
This is the year the Mets donâ€™t collapse in September and make a real run at a World Series title.Â They should win this division by 5.0 plus games, maybe more - and theyâ€™ll do it without a career season from Delgado.
What do you expect from the Mets this season? Let us hear your comments below.